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Identity and Place

“You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.” — Joan Didion

Life is change. Those of us afflicted with wanderlust amplify our lives with travel and exploration. But eventually, perhaps even relentlessly, we come home again. Whatever that means to us.

In a few weeks I’ll have been anchored to the same plot of land for 24 years. I’ve replaced everything from the appliances to the light fixtures to the front door. Two babies became adults and, as it should be with nests, moved on when they learned how to use their wings. Everything but the two residents who hold the mortgage have changed. But haven’t we changed too?

Having a sense of place is essential to our identity, but it isn’t the land or the house or even the collection of books on the shelves that define who we are. Identity lies in the gap between who we were and who we’re becoming. Likewise, place is in the gap between what feels most familiar and what eventually comes after. Identity, and place, aren’t the gap—they fill it.

So as we look for that which we won’t walk away from in this ever-changing world, we ought to begin by asking ourselves—what fills that gap?

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